I’m so thrilled to have author David Ezra Stein today with his top 10 favorite funny picture books. We are also giving away 3 signed copies of his latest book, Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise! You might remember Interrupting Chicken from the 2011 Caldecott Honor that it won! I’m happy to announce that Interrupting Chicken is back and better than ever!
Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein
David Ezra Stein reminds me of Caldecott triple winner David Weisner in that both can illustrate in many different styles and both can weave fractured stories in a whimsical and hilarious way. Interrupting Chicken has kid appeal with a strong girl character who takes charge in this creative play on words bedtime story. Kudos to Stein for outdoing himself. This sequel is every bit as good as the original, and even better, because it has elephants! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
To win one of three SIGNED copies of Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.
What are your favorite funny picture books? Thanks for sharing!
Let me preface this list by saying: I love a funny book. More than that, I love a funny book with heart. That is what I try to accomplish when I create my own books. Here are some of my very favorite books that have a generous helping of both heart and humor.
Ten Favorite Funny Picture Books
1. Goldilocks and the Three Bears by James Marshall
Through hilarious costumes, word choices, and setting, James Marshall gives this well-known story a Frankenstein-jolt of new life. Goldilocks’s repetition of the catchphrase “I don’t mind if I do!” should be mandatory in all versions of the Goldilocks story. The bears seem to speak with a Southern inflection that begs to be read aloud: “Now see here!” roars Papa when he discovers Goldilocks in bed. “Who was that little girl?” “I hope we never see her again!” Delicious to look at and to read. I love almost everything James Marshall made, but this is at the top. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
2. George and Martha by James Marshall
Two hilarious hippos, whose eyes look like nostrils and nostrils look like eyes; understated acting and tongue-in-cheek humor; an off-the-cuff spontaneity to the art that looks like it was drawn on a placemat—what’s not to love and laugh at? Plus there is a nice tenderness between the characters. Of all the books in the series, the first is the best. I believe the somewhere-between-picture-book-and-early-reader format was original in its time, and it certainly adds to the quirkiness. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
3. The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
With an acrobatic line, an SAT-level vocabulary, tons of silliness, and a good heart, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes is a touchstone for me. This book saved my life at the age of ten when I really needed to escape into a beautifully drawn, funny world. Bill Watterson gives plenty of shadow to the humor—something I could relate to as a lonely and sensitive kid. I felt understood! [graphic novel, ages 10 and up]
4. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz
Alexander’s voice is what I love most here. It’s so endearing and fun. His grouchy complaining never gets old, somehow. It just feels so good to read aloud. I have read it in Spanish, too, and it’s just as funny. The art, while a bit dated, still holds up emotionally. I love that he never gets to cheer up, either, as his plan to escape to Australia goes bust right at the end. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
5. Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell
As you may have noticed, I don’t gravitate to modern funny books as much as the ones I grew up with. This book is an exception. The situations and artwork perfectly together, and Cece Bell really makes a lot of humor out of the inherent qualities of a rabbit and a robot. For instance, Robot eats pizza with nuts and bolts on it, whereas Rabbit prefers veggies. Their relationship is warm, and their different personalities cause a lot of funny action. The book is full of catchy phrases; we now say “Turn down your volume knob!” (usually directed at the kids) and “Don’t you beep at me!” (usually directed at the computer) regularly around our home. [easy reader, ages 6 and up]
6. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
“The whole world is covered with buttons—and not one of them is mine!” I love all the Frog and Toad books, but this one has some of the very funniest stories. In “A Lost Button,” Toad goes rather Charlton Heston over his lost button, only to find it on the floor when he gets home. In “A Swim,” Toad feels self-conscious in his bathing suit. And in “The Letter,” a snail’s takes four days to deliver a love letter to Toad from Frog. Friendship, a beautiful setting, and lots of silly humor make this a classic. [easy reader, ages 4 and up]
7. The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
It’s hard to choose just one Dr. Seuss book, but this one has the story “Too Many Daves,” which might make me giggle the most. I am a sucker for funny names, and this story is basically a list of the funniest Dr. Seuss could come up with. Sneepy, Weepy Weed, and Marvin O’Gravel Balloon Face are just a few. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
8. Harry and the Lady Next Door by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
This is a fairly lengthy book that reads like a breeze. Droll and very, very funny, it tells the story of a sweet family dog who just wants the lady next door to stop singing opera. It’s understated and well-illustrated. It’s full of tongue-in-cheek moments, as when the lady wins a trip abroad and everybody cheers heartily. (She’s leaving!) [easy reader, ages 4 and up]
9. No, David! by David Shannon
Just look at the wild, outsider-art-looking boy on the cover and you will laugh. In channeling his childhood self, David Shannon manages to capture the energy of a child’s artwork while also doing some beautiful painting. This is a book for puppies—young kids who wreck the house, run around naked, and hear “NO” all the time. And for everyone who is a kid at heart. A pure joy to read. It was a big influence on me when I was starting out. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
10. What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson
Another newer choice. I met Fiona Robinson at a joint reading while promoting my book Interrupting Chicken. I think this book is so great—original in its format and art style, and very childlike in its humor. Mr. Herbert Timberteeth (a beaver) and his cast of animals are bursting with silliness (shrimp who ski!), and there is a very gentle lesson about letting kids be themselves that seems to be a lesson for grown-ups—how refreshing! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Win 3 Signed Copies of Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise!
To win one of three SIGNED copies of Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. We can only ship to U.S. addresses.
David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken was awarded a 2011 Caldecott Honor, as well as many state awards. His picture book Leaves won the Ezra Jack Keats award and was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice, and a School Library Journal Best Book. Booklist called his book Monster Hug! “a cousin to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.” Pouch! (Putnam), was a 2010 Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book. His books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Finnish. To learn more about him, visit his website, Facebook, and Twitter.
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